Mobile madness behind the wheel

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Three out of four Norwegian drivers chatter away or even send text messages on hand-held mobile phones while driving, according to a recent study by the Norwegian Automobile Association’s Motor magazine. The number of traffic accidents is increasing dramatically, and police say such illegal mobile phone use shows not only disregard for the law but also puts the lives of others at risk.

Within the last year, there has been a notable increase in accidents that typically can be blamed on inattention on the part of drivers. The number of collisions has risen from 14,632 in 2012 to 16,463 this year.

Multitasking hazard
“We can’t offer an absolute explanation for accident statistics as we are only able to investigate in cases where accidents have resulted in death. We can, however, provide an intelligent guess,” Dagfinn Moe of Norway’s independent research organization Sintef told Motor.

Norwegians are increasingly trying to do two things simultaneously, Moe noted, such as using their mobile phones while driving. Many ignore Norwegian law that demands use of hands-free devices for mobile phones.

“We are absolutely certain that the use of mobile telephones is a contributing factor in many traffic accidents,” said Bjarne Rysstad, communications director at Norwegian insurance company Gjensidige Forsikring. “The rise in accidents is worrisome. In a study we carried out last autumn, four out 10 drivers admitted that they had experienced situations where their use of mobile phones while driving could potentially have resulted in a dangerous situation.”

No fear of fines
The fear of fines if caught using a mobile without a hands-free device while driving (NOK 1300, or USD 216) does not seem to act as a deterrent. Surveys show the threat of a fine has little meaning for those under 34, while older drivers and women show more respect for the law.

“Research shows that mobile phone usage is a distracting force when driving,” Roar Sjelbred Larsen of the Norwegian Police, told Motor. “Therefore, it’s a challenge when motorists continually disrespect and ignore the ban on hand-held mobile phone usage while driving.”

Larsen is also concerned about navigation systems and other electronic gadgets in cars, as such devices also contribute to attention being diverted away from the road. While it is legal to use hands-free mobiles while driving, Rysstad, advises caution and common sense here, too.

“Studies have shown that regardless of the type of phone being used, talking while driving demands a lot of attention” says Rysstad. “The thing that irritates me most is those who drive big expensive cars while talking on their damned hand-held telephones. They should, at the very least, have money enough to spend on a hands-free device.”

newsinenglish.no/Audrey Andersen